Tag Archives: Inclusion

Human Rights Trump Cultural Tradition

Follow Me on Twitter @msmeadowstweets

Inclusive education is, “not limited to the inclusion of those children or young people with disabilities. Inclusion is inclusion of all regardless of race, ethnicity, disability, gender, sexual orientation, language, socio-economic status, and any other aspect of an individual’s identity that might be perceived as different[1]. As educators, how do we tackle this goal in countries or regions with a history of excluding certain groups? For example, is it our obligation to improve inclusive education for gender and sexual minority students in countries where homosexuality is considered a crime[2]?

When it comes to rights and justice in education, I am tempted to take a purist approach: insist on full equity, anything short of this is unacceptable. In reality, the concept of equity is subjective, complex, and extremely difficult to measure[3], so this mentality is practically inoperable. Additionally, as a visitor in countries abroad, I am compelled to position myself as the learner (rather than the teacher), to value diversity[4] (rather than assume my perspective is superior), and to respect local traditions (even if I do not practice them).

Still, those who do not have access to the privileges of a dominant group need and deserve allies and advocates. To ignore disparity is to be complicit in discrimination. In countries and regions where inclusive policy and practice is discouraged[5], whether by social norm or legal position, this is particularly salient. What is our role, as international educators, when local cultural traditions marginalize certain students? Are we overstepping our reach to demand equitable education when we are guests on foreign ground? On these questions, we can take guidance from international human rights agreements, such as the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that, “Everyone has the right to education”.

While the large multi-national cohorts that initiate human rights agreements have been critiqued for slanting toward Western ideology, these benchmarks are still preferable to leaning on one individual country’s interpretation of who deserves to attend a school that is relevant, safe, and inclusive. Human rights are more important than culture and tradition. So, discriminatory practices such as keeping young girls home to do the housework while their brothers go to school[6], are not acceptable. Marginalizing gender and sexual minority students from the full educational experience[7] for any reason, including cultural or religious objection, is also intolerable.

To implement policies stating as much is easier said than done. These types of shifts must be carried out sensitively, carefully, and sometimes slower than we like. Heavy-handed, hasty, top-down mandates (even with benevolent intentions) may prove counter-productive, causing backlash and a staking of camps. International education policy-makers, then, must be people with a deep understanding of the culture where they are working, a strong background in relevant policy, and a commitment to the well-being of all children, particularly those who have been historically disadvantaged.

How do you exercise cultural humility as a guest abroad, while also working toward inclusive education for all of your students?

[1] Polat, F. (2011). Inclusion in education: A step towards social justice. International Journal of Educational Development, 31, p. 50-58.

[2] For the record, my answer to this question is a firm: yes.

[3] Wiseman, A. W. (2008). A Culture of (in)equality?: A cross-national study of gender parity and gender segregation in national school systems. Research in Comparative and International Education, 3(2), 179-201.

[4] Déquanne, B. (2017, February 9). Stronger Together [blog post]. The International Educator Online.

[5] Fully aware, here, that my own country of citizenship (the United States) has a well-documented history of denying equitable access to education; this is not a ‘foreign problem’.

[6] Lewis, M. & Lockheed, M. (2007). Inexcusable absence: Why 60 million girls still aren’t in school and what to do about it. Washington, DC: Center for Global Development.

[7] Kosciw, J. G., Greytak, E. A., Giga, N. M., Villenas, C., & Danieschewski, D. J. (2016). The 2015 National School Climate Survey: The experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth in our nation’s schools. New York: GLSEN.

Stronger Together

“We are stronger not despite our differences, but because of them.” ~Prime Minister Trudeau

The recent horrific and tragic attack at the mosque in Quebec and the subsequent categorical response from Canadians and concerned citizens around the world is a poignant reminder of one of our primary purposes as educators. As learning institutions, we must model and live by the highest standards associated with tolerance, empathy, and understanding while categorically rejecting all acts of hate, bigotry, and discrimination. The unique opportunity to serve as an educator includes an unwavering commitment to model and stand up for the values we hold dear in our schools.

While it is not the role of a teacher to promote and impose personal political views and beliefs, it is a teacher’s responsibility to denounce, without exception, all comments and actions that are not in full adherence with the school’s focus on valuing plurality, difference, understanding, respect, and tolerance. As intolerance is usually a result of fear and fear is often generated from a lack of understanding, the focus on learning in schools plays an ever-important role toward deeper understandings. The hope is that the suspicions and uncertainty that result from a lack of understanding or knowledge will be replaced with curiosity, support, and appreciation.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s response to the shooting was a call to action and the coming together as a nation: “We will not stand for hatred and bigotry. Together we will ride from this darkness stronger and more unified than ever before. That is who we are… love, always love, instead of hate.” It is also heartening and inspiring to witness the commitment of our education colleagues and the focus of so many schools and organizations to take a stand against all that divides us. The message is clear in that if one of us suffers, we all suffer. By way of example, Asger Leth’s video, Three Beautiful Human Minutes, is a moving testimonial conveying the message that there is more that brings us together than we think. Teachers are also regularly seeking ways to embrace and learn from our differences. Alison Schofield recently posted a helpful article entitled, “How Teachers can Honor and Nurture all Students’ Languages and Cultures within an International School.” The University of Minnesota, where I am currently engaged in graduate studies, just launched a “We All Belong Here” campaign, with five key messages: 1. Our differences drive our greatness, 2. Respect everyone every day, 3. Rise above intolerance, 4. Stand up to injustice, 5. Strive to be inclusive.

This work is not easy, though it is of paramount importance. The studies of a colleague at the American School of Brasilia, Gavin Hornbuckle, highlights one of these challenges. Gavin conducted extensive doctoral research in the area of intercultural competencies. The results of his study and others indicate that “while teachers often believe that they possess the intercultural skill-set required to [help students to develop intercultural competence], in reality, this may not be the case” (Horbuckel, 2013). The research also stresses that the majority of educators have more of a monocultural mindset, while our students show evidence of being more sophisticated in their intercultural development” (Cushner, 2012). It is a fact that intercultural competence does not come naturally and is an area that we, as educators, need to continually work at, particularly as we seek to understand, embrace, and celebrate our differences.

Returning to Prime Minister Trudeau, one of his recent statements may serve as a guiding principle for our schools: “If we allow individuals and organizations to succeed by scaring people, then we do not actually end up any safer. Fear does not make us stronger, it makes us weaker. We are bound by one, unwavering, unshakable truth: we are stronger not despite our differences, but because of them”.

Blog: www.barrydequanne.com

Twitter: @dequanne


Cushner, K. (2012). Planting seeds for peace: Are they growing in the right direction? International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 36(2), 161-168.

Hornbuckle, G. C. (2013). Teachers’ views regarding ways in which the intercultural competence of students is developed at an international school in Southeast Asia: a mixed methods study. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN.

Featured image: cc licensed (CC BY-NC 2.0) Flickr photo by Roel 
Wijnants (Painting): https://www.flickr.com/photos/cosmosfan/14628522324

Our Human Tapestry

By Barry Dequanne | Follow me on Twitter @dequanne

The most moving and important testimonials about learning and school culture also come from parents, whose voices are critical to our collective partnership in support of student development. To complement last week’s post, Our Obligation, which focused on inclusion from a student’s perspective, this post shares a poignant parent reflection on the same theme.

Alex Ellis is currently serving as the British Ambassador to Brazil. Following his son Thomás’ recent graduation from the American School of Brasilia, Ambassador Ellis published the following reflections, which focus on the culture of learning and inclusion in schools.

Tomás Finished School Last Saturday

There are parents all over the northern hemisphere who in these weeks have watched or will watch their child go through this ritual, in many different forms, in the case of our son through a flick of a tassel. Each family has its own memories and stories, both similar to those of others and peculiar to themselves.

Our story includes a moment, at an earlier time, spent in a still, grey room, with sensible Flemish doctors telling us in sensible, Flemish English that our son is on the autistic spectrum. There’s no number to confirm this, no blood test. It’s the product of observation and judgment, and that knot of anxiety which has sat inside our stomachs from when Tomas’ first kindergarten teacher wondered if he might be a bit different, the apparent difficulty in hearing (tested, unproven), his slightly awkward walk, his focus on a few toys but not his classmates.

Before he was diagnosed Tomás passed through a series of small schools, mainly with the help of kind teachers, next to whom he was often standing. The diagnosis came after, at very short notice, we had moved from warm, fun Madrid back to Brussels. He plunged into a large school which quickly declared him “ineducable”. It doesn’t sound much nicer when you hear it in French. Which I did, twice, for bureaucratic reasons which were legally impeccable, financially advantageous and inhuman.

I wondered, when Tomas was diagnosed, what would happen next. “Tomorrow” is the best answer. He hadn’t changed and we hadn’t changed. We fell, and then got up. Tomas carried on, much happier at a school that took him, rather than rejected him, for who he is. The labels — Asperger’s, on the autistic spectrum, he’s quite bright but different etc — helped in the first interaction with schools. They were ready to adjust before he walked in.

Tomas got from there to here, 11 years later, because of some things he was born with; confidence, a sense of humour and a good heart. Lots of other children have those characteristics, autistic or not. Tomas had a lot of help as well. Help in the form of classroom support, and crucially from teachers who “got” him. Who saw him as different, not special, as a person, albeit in teenage form, rather than a syndrome.

This, we learnt, starts at the top. Schools are no different from any other organisation in the importance of the leader in determining and living its values. We had luck, and a bit of choice, in the two schools where Tomas spent the best part of a decade. Both heads thought that a school would gain more than lose from a boy like Tomas in it, that this was part of the world of difference in which pupils should learn. Almost without exception the pupils shared this attitude. On a rare occasion when a classmate tried to bully him, his confidence and humour dealt pretty comfortably with it.

The head teacher at the ambitious, academic school where Tomas stayed longest told me, after chatting with him, that he would take him into the school, but there would be some who wouldn’t be so keen to have him there. So it proved. Some teachers welcomed him, some wanted him out of their class. This wasn’t determined by Tomas’ abilities, but by the teacher’s confidence. Over time some teachers excluded him from classes in which he was relatively strong, whilst others kept with him in subjects (maths) in which threats, tears and bribes could not move him — I know, having tried, and failed, with all three. As exams loomed bigger, some teachers, and in rare cases some other parents, wanted Tomas out of the class for fear that he might undermine the grades of other pupils. In such situations the real values of a school become apparent.

Tomas is not easy to teach. Like a lot of kids on the autistic spectrum, he’s pretty autodidactic (and I should thank The Simpsons, Futurama and Cartoon Network for their significant contribution to his education). And he tells it as he sees it, which can be uncomfortable. The new music teacher in one school, fresh from university, might have hoped for a different opening to his career than Tomas asking to see his qualifications.

But the good teachers, and there were a lot of them, got past this or better still embraced this as part of what Tomas brought to the classroom, to the school — and also knew that the second is a lot ore than just the first. Last week, after Tomás stepped up to get an arts prize, to his father’s bursting pride and his own mild indifference, a teacher referred to the support for him from “the school community”. She was quite right. It did, for our son, take just that community to help get him through his education.

So this one goes out, yes, to the son I love. But it also goes out to every member of those school communities, teachers, administrators, security guards, classroom helpers, who saw in Tomas not a potential spoiler of grade averages or a “special” pupil to be kept in a “special” place but rather saw him for what he was — another flavour in the very wide variety that is the human race.

Link to Original Post: Tomás Finished School Last Saturday

Versão português:

Nossa Tapeçaria Humana

Os depoimentos mais emocionantes e importantes sobre a aprendizagem e cultura escolar também vêm dos pais, cujas vozes são fundamentais para a nossa parceria em prol do desenvolvimento do aluno. Complementando a postagem da semana passada, A Nossa Obrigação, cujo foco foi a inclusão de acordo com a perspectiva de cada aluno, a publicação abaixo compartilha a reflexão comovente de um pai sobre o mesmo tema. Alex Ellis está servindo atualmente como Embaixador Britânico no Brasil. Logo após a formatura do seu filho Thomas, na Escola Americana de Brasília, o Embaixador Ellis publicou a seguinte reflexão, que incide sobre a cultura de aprendizagem e inclusão nas escolas.

Tomás terminou a escola no último Sábado

Nessas últimas semanas, pais em todo o hemisfério norte foram ou vão assistir seus filhos passarem por esse ritual, de formatura, nas mais diversas formas; como no caso do nosso filho Tomás que passou a corda do capelo do lado direito para o lado esquerdo. Cada família tem suas próprias memórias e histórias, algumas semelhantes entre si — e outras completamente particulares.

Nossa história inclui um momento vivido alguns anos atrás, em uma sala ainda cinzenta, com sensíveis médicos da região belga dos Flandres nos dizendo, também de forma sensível, que nosso filho possuía um diagnóstico de espectro autista. Não há nenhum número para confirmar isso; nenhum exame de sangue. Essa conclusão é o produto único de observação e julgamento. É resultado daquele nó de ansiedade que tomou conta de nós, eu e minha esposa, quando a primeira professora de Tomás, no jardim de infância, nos chamou na escola e nos perguntou se ele era um pouco diferente; desde sua aparente dificuldade de audição (testada e não comprovada); ao caminhar um pouco desajeitado e o foco em alguns brinquedos, mas não seus colegas.

Antes de ser diagnosticado, Tomás passou por uma série de pequenas escolas, sempre com a ajuda de professores amáveis, dos quais ele quase sempre permanecia por perto. A comprovação veio logo depois que nos mudamos da quente e divertida Madrid de volta à Bruxelas, na Bélgica. Ali, Tomás foi matriculado em uma escola maior, que rapidamente o declarou como “ineducável”. Uma frase que não soa muito mais agradável quando você a escuta em francês.

Eu me perguntava, assim que ele foi diagnosticado, o que aconteceria em seguida. E o “amanhã” é a melhor resposta. Meu filho, assim como nós, não tinha mudado. Nós caímos, mas então nos levantamos. Tomás seguiu em frente, muito mais feliz em uma escola que o acolheu ao invés de rejeitá-lo por ser quem ele é. Os rótulos — Asperger, com espectro autista, “muito brilhante, mas diferente”… — ajudaram em sua primeira interação com as novas escolas. Elas estavam prontas a se adaptarem antes da nossa chegada.

Nesses últimos 11 anos, como fruto de várias características de sua natureza, Tomás adquiriu confiança, um excelente senso de humor e um bom coração.

Várias outras crianças também são assim — autistas ou não. Tomas também recebeu muita ajuda. Ajuda em forma de suporte com as atividades em sala de aula e, crucialmente, de professores que o conquistaram. Professores que o enxergaram como diferente, e não especial; como uma pessoa, ainda que adolescente, ao invés de uma síndrome.

Nós aprendemos algo desde o começo: escolas não são diferentes de qualquer outra organização no que se refere à importância de um líder que determine e estimule determinados valores. Tivemos sorte, e um pouco de escolha, com as duas escolas onde Tomás passou a maior da última década.Ambas as partes acreditaram que a escola iria ganhar mais do que perder recebendo um garoto como ele, parte de um mundo de diferenças que todos os demais alunos deveriam aprender. Quase sem exceção, todos os demais alunos compartilharam essa atitude. E na rara ocasião em que um colega tentou intimidá-lo, a confiança e o bom humor de Tomás lidaram confortavelmente com a situação.

O diretor da escola em que Tomás ficou a maior parte de sua trajetória me disse, depois de conversar com ele, que iria matriculá-lo, mas confessou que haveria algumas pessoas ali pouco ansiosas com a sua chegada. E assim foi. Alguns professores o acolheram, alguns o queriam fora de sala. Isso não foi determinado pela capacidade de Tomás, mas pela confiança de cada um dos professores. Ao longo do tempo, alguns professores o excluíram de aulas nas quais ele era relativamente habilidoso, enquanto outros continuaram com ele em disciplinas (matemática, por exemplo) em que as ameaças, as lágrimas e os subornos não conseguiam movê-lo. A medida que os exames foram aumentando, alguns professores e, em raros casos, alguns pais, queriam Tomás fora da classe — era o medo de que ele minasse os resultados dos demais estudantes. Nesses momentos, os reais valores de uma escola se fizeram presentes.

Tomas não é fácil de ensinar. Como um monte de crianças com espectro autista, ele é muito autodidata (e eu deveria agradecer Os Simpsons, Futurama e Cartoon Network por sua contribuição significativa para a sua educação). E ele diz as coisas exatamente com as vê, o que às vezes pode ser desconfortável. O novo professor de música, recém saído da universidade, talvez esperasse um início diferente para sua carreira: com certeza ele não esperava que Tomás pedisse para ver suas qualificações. Mas os bons professores, e havia um monte deles, apenas superaram essas dificuldades ou, melhor ainda, as abraçaram como parte do que Tomás trouxe para a sala de aula e a escola. Eles entenderam que os ganhos eram maiores que todos os desafios.

Na última semana, depois de Tomás ganhar um prêmio de artes, para o orgulho do pai e para sua própria indiferença, uma professora mencionou o suporte oferecido a Tomás por toda a “comunidade escolar”. Ela estava certa. Eles fizeram muito pelo nosso filho e se engajaram no desafio de ajudá-lo no caminho pela educação.

Então, sim, este texto vai para o filho que eu amo. Mas também vai para cada membro daquelas comunidades escolares, professores, administradores, seguranças e auxiliares que viram no Tomás não somente um potencial de notas medianas ou um aluno “especial” para ser mantido em um lugar “especial”, mas sim pelo que ele era — um outro sabor na variedade muito ampla que é a raça humana.

Link para publicação original: Tomás Finished School Last Saturday

Featured image: cc licensed (CC BY 2.0) flickr photo by James Cridland:
Crowd https://www.flickr.com/photos/leecullivan/240389468/

Inclusion – Our Obligation

By Barry Dequanne | Follow me on Twitter @dequanne

It was one of those emails that catch your attention. Mauricio, then a fifteen-year-old student in a Brazilian school, sent an elegantly worded statement about how he taught himself English so that he could realize his dream of attending a university in the United States. Mauricio had been studying our website and, as he believed our school’s values were aligned with his, was determined to join our learning community. What I did not know at the time was that Mauricio was going to forever change our community’s perspectives on learning and our understanding of the world around us.

Mauricio’s application for admission to our high school was the first we had received from a blind student. While Mauricio did not seem to be concerned that his blindness would limit his learning, a reflection of his indomitable spirit that I quickly learned to admire and appreciate, our faculty did raise several valid questions and concerns.

The consideration of Mauricio’s application was framed and guided by a mission and set of beliefs that highlighted diversity and different learning styles as essential values. Through dialogue, learning, and understanding, the high school faculty committed to admitting Mauricio and providing him with the best educational program within our capabilities. Mauricio also supported us through this learning process and was always quick to remind us not to think of him as a blind person, but rather a person who happened to be blind.

During one of our admissions meetings, I welcomed Mauricio to my office with the greeting, “It is great to see you…” but cut myself off as I realized the insensitivity of my words. Mauricio smiled warmly and replied in a manner that conveyed wisdom beyond his years, “It is also great to seeyou.” While it was a seemingly minor moment of learning, it was also emblematic of our own collective growth. I humbly shared with Mauricio how it was likely that we were going to learn far more from him than he would learn from us. And, this was in fact the case. Four years later, Mauricio graduated from Graded, the school where I previously worked, and he realized his dream of attending and graduating from a top university in the United States. It was also during this time that we grew the most as professionals and as a community.

While Mauricio was a student at Graded, we had the honor of hosting two very special people, Bill and Ochan Powell, who conveyed a similar spirit of promise and a unique ability to instill an intrinsic commitment in others to be the best professionals and people they can be. Bill and Ochan scheduled time after their professional learning facilitation to interview Mauricio as part of their work associated with inclusive schools. I remember clearly how our faculty and I beamed with pride and a sense of purpose when Bill and Ochan highlighted and congratulated the team for their work with Mauricio and their efforts to ensure Graded was offering a highly functioning inclusive learning program.

The following two videos present clips from Bill and Ochan’s work with Mauricio.

Interview with Bill and Ochan:

Learning in a Science Classroom:

The videos highlight Bill’s talents and concern for others and, correspondingly, one of the many reasons why there has been such an extraordinary outpouring of sorrow, love, and admiration from around the world to the tragic news of Bill Powell’s sudden passing. Bill was a remarkable individual whose impressive professional capabilities were complemented with a warm heart and deeply caring nature.

A recent exchange of emails with Mauricio highlighted the difference Bill’s vision and unwavering commitment to student learning and inclusion can make in a student’s life. The following is an extract from Mauricio’s note to me this week:

Needless to say, if it were not for my inclusion at Graded and before, I would not be where I am today. I have worked at internationally recognized corporations, attended top educational institutions abroad, learned the importance of adaptation and persistence, and demonstrated to others that blindness does not define one’s capabilities.

It all began with education – an education that was inclusive, grounded, and rigorous. It all began with teachers and administrators who believed in my potential, and who required of me the same as was required of any other student. If one has education one still faces challenges, the difference being that without it we have no solution. Blind people must be able to make any choice they wish for their future, with blindness being only a circumstance and physical characteristic. As the Olympics are held in Brazil, so will the Paralympics. We apply the inspiration and values from all athletes into our lives as much as possible so that we may continue fighting for opportunity for all people.

The message of six years ago still stands: people must ask questions, so that their doubts may be resolved. On the other hand, those with disabilities must believe in themselves, strive for their best, and not for what seems comfortable, and never be let down by expectations by others. Others may not know our full potential, but I find that most people will be allies if we help them help us. And, schools cannot do it alone – families must understand that disabilities shall never define where one wishes to go.

~ Mauricio

I am deeply grateful to Mauricio and Bill and Ochan Powell for the real difference they have made in our lives. Looking ahead, we hope to honor Bill’s significant contributions to the field of education and his dedication to the lives of others by ensuring a collective commitment to furthering his vision of inclusive schools where diversity, difference, and all learning styles are valued within the context of a plurality of thought and perspectives. Next Frontier Inclusion’s mission must also be our own: “to promote and protect the interests of children who learn in different ways or at different rates.” This is our moral obligation to Mauricio and all of the students, families, and communities we have the privilege of working with at our schools.


Featured image: cc licensed (CC BY-NC 2.0) flickr photo by lee: like a record…   https://www.flickr.com/photos/leecullivan/240389468/

Getting to Yes- Inclusion

As International schools morph and change, the goal is our schools become better versions of what we’ve been before. Whether it is to provide a more cohesive and articulated curriculum, more rigorous vetting of our personnel for safety, or more purposefully designed and earth-friendly facilities, we are always changing and improving.

One area which is garnering a lot of attention right now is inclusivity. The idea that our schools can accept students with special needs isn’t new, but striving to do so, and even expanding the notion of what we can support, is a change.

Championing this idea is the Next Frontier Inclusion project led by Bill and Ochan Powell. This past week, I was with them at Hong Kong Academy to see an inclusive school in action: the journey, the celebrations, and the next steps for all of us trying to make this a reality. It was an interesting visit.

While, I’m slightly embarrassed to admit it, I wasn’t sure how I would feel around students with special needs. Having grown up in and always worked in international schools, I have limited exposure to students who are considered SEN (Special Education Needs) children. Of course, being on site at HKA and seeing those students playing, learning, and making friends eased my fear and opened my heart. While most of our schools will never be a true microcosm of society, we can and should modify our definition of diversity. 

The big questions shared and chewed on with the group included:

  • How do you do this? Staffing, marketing, facilities, etc.
  • How do we go from where we are today, to where we want to be without compromising our already rigorous programs?
  • What if our school communities (existing families) don’t want to do this?

Of course, for many of our schools, it will take time, planning and persistence to shift the culture and become more purposefully inclusive. Each school will face challenges based on its locale and clientele. However as often happens in our connected community of international school educators, once a few of us leap out, it will be easier (and become more important) for others to do the same. That is our strength as a global community.

Here is a first step I can share about the journey we are on at my school. It is a small shift that has produced big changes. It is a shift in language and mindset. It is replicable by any school wanting to become more inclusive. 

We have recently changed our admissions stance from ‘no’ to ‘yes and…’ In the past, we would receive a file of a student with needs and work as an admissions team to explain all the reasons why we couldn’t admit the child. This process was designed to help the family understand why we were saying ‘No’.

Now, the admissions team (principal, resource teachers, counselor, admissions rep, possibly a classroom teacher) is tasked with presenting a scenario to our director based on ‘yes’. There is no longer a ‘no’ option at this meeting.

Instead, ‘yes, and…’  comes with the plan/proposal of what we would require to fully support the child in our school. There is no boundary to what we can propose: shadow teachers, more testing, modified curriculum, partial day, on-site therapy, etc. The proposals are not predicated on what we already do, but instead generated by what would be possible if there were no limits. The admission team’s job is to paint a picture which gets us to yes. From there, the director makes the final decision about whether or not we can get there.

This shift in mindset and emphasis has produced a few interesting results. First, we are much more likely to think out of the box when we are starting with a positive, can-do frame of mind. Secondly, the two or three cases we have reviewed in this vein have turned out to be doable, surprising us all, as in the past, we probably would have simply said ‘no’. And finally, the level of communication and ownership for the inclusion plan is spread out among those people who proposed an idea worth hearing. 

Getting to yes is a motto we are beginning to live. While there are sure to be pitfalls, we are happy to be taking an active and conscious step toward inclusion.

What is your school doing to change the conversation?

Image credit: ‘Diversity Clip Art’ www.clipartsheep.com, Creative Commons right to share